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Why is My Grass Turning Yellow: A Complete Guide on Grass Discoloration


by Bryan Mckenzie


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Home » Gardening » Why is My Grass Turning Yellow: A Complete Guide on Grass Discoloration
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Your lush green lawn suddenly turning yellow can be quite a puzzle. It can be concerning, especially when you have been providing it with enough care. The good news is that yellow grass is not necessarily a death sentence for your lawn. Understanding the various reasons for the discoloration can help address the issue effectively.

This complete guide on grass discoloration discusses the potential causes of yellow grass, including lack of water, nutritional deficiencies, excessive fertilization, diseases or pests, weather conditions, and soil pH levels. The guide also provides preventative and treatment tips, as well as maintenance suggestions to keep your lawn healthy and vibrant.

Reasons for Yellowing

The yellowing of grass is a telltale sign that something is amiss with your yard. There are various reasons why your lawn may be turning yellow, including lack of water, which can lead to dehydration and death of the grass blades.

Nutritional deficiencies caused by an insufficient supply of essential nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus can also result in yellowing. However, over-fertilization can lead to excessive fertilization, which results in yellowing due to toxic buildup.

Diseases or pests, such as fungi and insects, can also be the culprits for yellowing grass. Additionally, weather conditions such as too much heat or cold can result in stress for the grass, leading to yellowing.

Finally, soil pH levels that are too high or too low can also make it difficult for the grass to absorb the necessary nutrients, leading to yellowing. It is essential to identify the exact cause of yellowing to take the necessary measures to restore your lush green lawn.

Lack of Water

  • Grass blades start to curl and fold
  • Grass loses its green color and starts to look dull and lifeless
  • Blades of grass are easily pulled from the soil, indicating that the roots are not holding the soil properly
  • Leaves and blades of grass may develop spots and patches that eventually dry out
  • The affected areas may start to resemble a spider web pattern

One of the most common causes of yellowing grass is due to lack of water. Ideally, grass should receive 1 inch of water per week to thrive. When the grass does not receive enough water, the leaves and blades of grass start to curl and fold to minimize water loss. Gradually, the grass loses its green color and starts to look dull and lifeless.

With time, the blades of grass become thin and weak, making them easily detachable from the soil, indicating that the roots are not holding the soil properly. Lack of water also makes the grass vulnerable to issues like weed growth and pests.

Leaves and blades of grass may develop spots and patches that eventually dry out and turn yellow. These affected areas may start to resemble a spider-web pattern, indicating that the grass is dying out in specific areas. It is crucial to ensure that your lawn is receiving enough water, especially during dry spells or droughts.

A regular schedule of watering early in the morning or evening can help prevent yellowing due to a lack of water, allowing your lawn to maintain its lush, green appearance.

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Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional Deficiencies

Grass requires essential nutrients to grow strong and vibrant. A shortage of one or more of these nutrients can lead to yellow and pale-looking grass blades.

Nitrogen deficiency is one of the most common reasons for yellowing grass. Nitrogen is a crucial nutrient required for chlorophyll production, which gives the grass its green color. When there is insufficient nitrogen, chlorophyll production slows down, leading to yellowing.

Potassium is another necessary nutrient for grass growth. It helps regulate water usage, making it an essential nutrient for grass that needs a consistent water supply. Low potassium levels in the soil can cause brownish-yellow patches on the grass blades, especially on the edges.

Phosphorus deficiency is rare in established lawns since it is abundant in the soil. However, newly planted grass or grass that recently underwent overseeding may be susceptible. Insufficient phosphorus leads to stunted grass growth and yellowing blades.

Maintaining a regular fertilization regimen can help prevent nutritional deficiency-related yellowing. A soil test may be necessary to identify which nutrient your lawn is lacking to provide the necessary fertilizer accordingly. Taking care of your Lawn by mowing at the appropriate height and watering it at the right time can also promote healthy growth.

Excessive Fertilization

Excessive fertilization is a common cause of yellowing grass. While fertilizer is necessary for the growth and health of your lawn, too much of it can lead to devastating consequences. Over-fertilizing can cause a rapid burst of growth, but it can also lead to the accumulation of salts and a toxic buildup of nitrogen, which can cause the yellowing of the grass.

The excessive growth caused by over-fertilization means grass blades are weak and more susceptible to pests and diseases. The yellowing of the grass due to excessive fertilization can also be recognized by the burnt tips of the blades, which indicates poisoning. It is essential to stick to a regular fertilization schedule and understand the appropriate fertilizer for your grass type.

Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that the fertilizer is thoroughly watered down, allowing it to penetrate the soil and minimizing chances of buildup and excess. In extreme excess, over-fertilizing can lead to the death of your lawn. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and monitor your lawn for signs of over-fertilization to avoid yellowing and ensure that your lawn stays healthy and green.

Diseases or Pests

Diseases or pests can be a leading cause of yellowing grass. Fungal diseases can lead to brown patches on the lawn, which if left untreated, can cause the grass to turn yellow. For instance, leaf spot and dollar spot are common fungal diseases that cause the grass to turn yellow and die. The fungus can also develop at the grassroots, leading to thinning of the blades and eventually yellowing of the grass.

Another common problem is grubs which are larvae of beetles. They feed on the roots of the grass and cause widespread damage, which can lead to yellowing of the lawn. Mole crickets are another common pest that can cause damage to the lawn resulting in yellowing. They tunnel under the ground while feeding on the grassroots. This activity can cause patchy yellowing of the lawn, which can be easily mistaken for heat stress.

It’s essential to identify the exact pest or disease affecting your yard and take the appropriate measures to control it. For instance, spot treating with a fungicide can help prevent the spread of the fungus, while applying grub control products can help get rid of beetle larvae that cause damage to the grassroots.

Weather Conditions

Weather plays a significant role in the health of your grass, and extreme weather conditions can often lead to yellowing. Grass needs a specific range of temperatures to grow to its full potential. Extreme temperatures caused by scorching heat or cold snaps can result in severe stress on the grass blades, leading to yellowing.

Additionally, too much rain can lead to waterlogging, making it challenging for the grassroots to access the necessary oxygen, which may result in yellowing. Another weather condition that can cause yellowing is drought. During periods of dry weather, insufficient water can lead to dehydration, making their blades vulnerable to breakage and hence yellowing.

On the other hand, too much humidity can also be a problem, as it can cause diseases such as mold and fungus on your grass. It is essential to maintain proper humidity levels to avoid this type of yellowing. Besides, hailstorms and snowfall can damage the grass, leading to yellowing, bruising, and general stress. It is crucial to take measures to protect your lawn from extreme weather. One way is to provide adequate water during dry weather conditions and avoid excessive watering during rainy periods.

Additionally, taking measures to protect your lawn, such as using covers to protect it during hailstorms and removing snow from your lawn, can help prevent yellowing due to weather conditions. Finally, choosing grass species that thrive in your local weather conditions can help prevent yellowing due to extreme weather conditions.

Soil pH Levels

Soil pH levels can play a significant role in the development and maintenance of a healthy lawn. Soil pH levels correspond to the acidity or alkalinity of the soil and can have a considerable impact on the solubility of nutrients. The ideal soil pH level for most grass types falls within a range of 6 to 7.5. If the soil is too acidic, with pH levels below 6, the grass may not be able to get the necessary nutrients from the soil.

On the other hand, soil that is too basic, with a pH level greater than 7.5, can lead to other nutrient deficiencies in the grass that can cause yellowing. A pH balance that is not optimal can result from several factors, including over-fertilization with lime, which can increase the alkalinity of the soil, and organic matter decomposition, which can produce acidic compounds. Testing the soil for pH levels using a soil testing kit is the first step to determining the pH balance of your soil.

Once you identify the pH balance, you can take the necessary measures to adjust the pH levels accordingly, such as applying lime to make the soil less acidic or sulfur or ammonium sulfate to make the soil more acidic. This can help ensure that the grass gets the nutrients needed for a healthy and vibrant lawn.

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Prevention and Treatment

Prevention and Treatment

Having identified the underlying causes of yellowing in your lawn, it is crucial to take preventive and corrective measures to address the issue. Regular watering is crucial to keep your grass healthy, and a lack of water is a common cause of yellowing. It is best to develop a regular watering schedule to ensure the lawn is adequately hydrated, especially in hot weather.

Proper mowing is also essential, and it is best to ensure you cut your grass to the correct height to prevent overexposure to the sun, which causes too much heat stress.

Applying the right fertilizers and getting regular soil testing can also help prevent nutrient deficiency and excessive fertilization. Pest and disease management strategies such as proper pest identification and using insecticides and fungicides can be vital in keeping your lawn healthy.

Managing soil pH through pH adjustment and periodic aeration and dethatching also play a significant role in addressing yellowing in your lawn. Taking these preventive measures can help maintain a healthy, lush green lawn year-round.

Regular Watering Schedule

Water is a vital ingredient for any healthy lawn and keeping up with a regular watering schedule can help prevent yellow grass. Grass requires around one to one and a half inches of water per week, depending on the soil type and weather conditions. Generally, it is better to water your lawn in the early morning, so the grass has time to dry before the heat of the day sets in.

Watering at night can result in moist conditions, creating a favorable environment for fungal growth, which will contribute to further yellowing of the lawn. It is also important to maintain consistent watering habits rather than infrequent heavy watering, as this will enable the grass to develop better drought tolerance. You can use a soil moisture meter to determine if your lawn requires watering.

Overwatering can be detrimental and lead to root rot, which is also a common reason for yellowing; thus, it is critical to keep an eye on your lawn’s moisture levels. Adhering to a regular watering schedule and avoiding overwatering can keep yellowing at bay and help maintain a healthy green lawn. Below are some tips to follow for a successful watering routine:

  • Use a sprinkler system that provides even coverage to avoid dry spots
  • Adjust the sprinkler heads to minimize water waste due to wind or runoff
  • Water deeply and infrequently to encourage deeper root growth
  • Use a timer to ensure even watering

Cutting Grass to Proper Height

Cutting Grass to the Proper Height is crucial in maintaining a healthy and beautiful lawn. Grass that is cut too short stresses the plant, resulting in yellow and brown spots. On the other hand, overgrown grass can be challenging to maintain, as tall blades shade lower leaves and stifle growth.

The optimal grass length often depends on the type of grass planted, but most grass species should be cut to a height of about three inches. Taller grass shades the soil, which helps it retain moisture, and it also provides a larger area for photosynthesis, which helps the grass grow and thrive. Grass should not be cut by more than a third of its total length at any given time.

Additionally, using a sharp blade is essential to avoid tearing the grass blades, which can also lead to yellowing and browning. Cutting the grass to an appropriate height and using sharp blades is crucial to ensure healthy grass growth and vibrant green lawns.

Proper Fertilization and Soil Testing

Fertilization is vital to keep your grass healthy and vibrant. However, over-fertilization can lead to yellowing of the grass blades. Hence, it is crucial to follow proper fertilization guidelines based on your type of grass and the season. The most common nutrients required for proper fertilization include nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

Depending on the grass type, your lawn may require different ratios of each of these nutrients. It’s essential to ensure that you don’t exceed the recommended amounts for each nutrient to avoid yellowing due to toxic buildup. Soil testing is a critical component of proper fertilization as it allows you to determine your lawn’s nutrient requirements accurately.

You can take a soil sample to your local gardening supply store or send it to a laboratory for proper testing. Based on the soil test results, you can determine the amount of fertilizer your lawn requires and the right ratio of nutrients. Once you apply the proper amount of fertilizer, water your lawn thoroughly to help the nutrients penetrate the soil.

Regular fertilization together with proper soil testing is essential when it comes to preventing yellowing and promoting a healthy lawn.

Pest Control and Disease Management

Managing pests and diseases is critical to maintain a healthy lawn and combat yellowing. Prevention is the first line of defense against pests and diseases, and it starts with proper lawn care. Mowing the grass to the appropriate height and using sharp blades prevent the spread of disease. Drainage and good soil health also reduce the likelihood of diseases.

However, if pests or diseases do become an issue, treating them early is essential to prevent further damage, and the right treatment will depend on the specific problem. Pest control measures include using environmentally friendly pesticides or natural predators to eliminate insect populations. It’s essential to identify the specific pest correctly, as different treatments work for different pests.

Disease management may involve fungicides or chemicals to alleviate the symptoms of plant diseases like brown patches or rust. However, avoiding the over-application of chemicals is crucial to prevent doing more harm than good. Working with a lawn care professional can help you identify and treat pests and diseases effectively. Awareness of proper lawn care practices as well as the early identification and management of pests and diseases can go a long way in helping prevent the yellowing of the lawn.

Aeration and Dethatching

are two essential lawn care practices that can help restore the health of yellowing grass. Aeration involves poking small holes in the soil to allow air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the grass roots more efficiently. Dethatching, on the other hand, involves the removal of the layer of dead organic material, also known as thatch, which accumulates above the soil surface. Below are some important things to know about aeration and dethatching:

  • Why aerate and dethatch? Aeration and dethatching help to reduce soil compaction, which allows the roots to breathe and absorb nutrients more efficiently. This helps to promote the growth of new lawn roots while also allowing grass seeds to germinate more effectively. They also improve water infiltration and retention, minimizing runoff and drought stress. Thatch removal reduces the competition between new grass shoots and dead thatch for light, water, and nutrients.
  • How often to aerate and dethatch? Aeration should be performed at least once a year, preferably in the fall or spring when the lawn is growing vigorously, and the soil is moist. Dethatching can be done every 2-4 years, depending on how much thatch has accumulated, and the condition of the lawn.
  • How do aerate and dethatch? Aeration can be carried out using a manual or motorized aerator which removes small plugs of soil, or with a garden fork. Dethatching can be done using a power rake or dethatching machine, or with a garden rake if the thatch layer is not too thick.
  • Tips for aerating and dethatching? Before aerating, ensure that the soil is moist to allow for easier penetration. After aerating, remove any soil plugs left on the surface and consider top-dressing with compost or sand to promote microbial activity. When dethatching, avoid removing too much thatch at once as it can cause damage to the grass crown and roots. After dethatching, consider top-dressing with compost or fertilizer to replenish nutrients in the soil.

By regularly aerating and dethatching your lawn, you can help promote a healthier and more vibrant grass that is less susceptible to stress, diseases, and pests.

pH Adjustment

As mentioned earlier, soil pH imbalance can lead to yellowing of the grass. Hence, it is essential to restore optimal levels to promote healthy growth. A pH test kit is necessary to determine the level of acidity in the soil. A range of 6.0 to 7.5 pH is optimal for most varieties of grass. Here are some ways to adjust your soil pH levels:

  • Lime applications: The application of lime can help reduce acidity levels in the soil. However, it may take a long time to see the results. Lime should only be applied if the pH level is below 6.0.
  • Sulfur applications: If the pH level is higher than 7.5, sulfur can be used to reduce the soil pH level. Sulfur usually takes effect within four to six weeks.
  • Organic Matter: Adding compost and other organic matter to the soil can help balance the pH level as well.

It is important to check the soil regularly to maintain optimal levels and avoid over-application of soil amendments, which can lead to other nutrient imbalances.

If the yellowing persists even after soil pH adjustment, consult a lawn specialist or a professional to avoid further damage.

Maintenance Tips

Maintaining your lawn will ensure that it stays green and healthy, making it less susceptible to yellowing. One of the easiest tips is to establish a regular maintenance schedule. This will include removing debris from the lawn, cleaning the equipment, and conducting regular inspections.

Proper, frequent mowing is also one of the key maintenance tips. When mowing, it is essential to follow the proper mowing techniques, such as leaving the grass long and refraining from removing more than one-third of the blade. Keeping your lawn free of leaves, debris, and pet waste is crucial, not only for appearance but also for the health of the grass.

Finally, reseeding and over-seeding add new grass to your lawn, boosting its health and density. You can also conduct soil tests to ensure that your lawn’s pH levels are optimal and take necessary steps to adjust if they are not. Proper lawn maintenance goes a long way in preventing yellowing and ensuring that your yard remains healthy and vibrant.

Regular Maintenance Schedule

Maintaining a regular schedule for lawn care is crucial for promoting healthy growth and preventing yellowing. Here are some tips to include in your regular maintenance schedule:

  • Mowing: Make sure the blade on your lawnmower is sharp and adjust the height to trim only the top third of the grass blades to prevent stress and yellowing. In general, mowing the lawn once a week should suffice.
  • Watering: Water your lawn early in the morning to prevent the water from evaporating. Aim to give your lawn one inch of water per week in normal weather conditions, but be mindful of rainfall. Too much or too little water can lead to yellowing.
  • Removing weeds: Weeds can compete with your grass for nutrients and water, resulting in yellowing. Remove them by hand or use weed control products if necessary.
  • Cleaning: Remove debris like leaves, twigs, and branches to prevent them from blocking sunlight and air circulation, which can lead to stress and yellowing.
  • Fertilizing: Follow a consistent fertilization schedule to provide your lawn with the necessary nutrients. Typically, fertilizing twice a year (in spring and fall) should suffice, but customized schedules may vary according to factors like soil condition and grass type.

By incorporating these maintenance practices into your routine, you can promote healthy growth, prevent yellowing, and keep your lawn looking vibrant and lush all year round.

Proper Mowing Techniques

Proper Mowing Techniques

Proper mowing techniques are crucial in maintaining a healthy lawn. A sharp mower blade is necessary for a clean and neat cut that doesn’t tear the grass blades. Dull blades tear the grass, causing it to turn brown and inviting diseases. It is advisable to sharpen blades after every 10 mowings to ensure the best results.

Mowing frequency is equally important since grass should never be cut too short to avoid scalping. When the grass is too low, there is increased exposure to pest infestation, diseases, and harmful UV rays. A general rule of thumb is to avoid cutting off more than a third of your grass blades at one time.

Mowing height should be adjusted according to grass variety, climate, and season. It’s essential to mow higher when the grass is growing actively during cooler periods like spring and fall and lower during summer. Furthermore, mowing technique matters, and it’s advisable to change directions with every mowing session to prevent the grass from leaning or lying flat in one direction.

Additionally, leaving the grass clippings on the lawn provides natural-tinted mulch, curb wastage, and recycles the grass’s nutrients. Proper mowing techniques play a crucial role in maintaining the lawn’s health and promoting the growth of a lush green yard.

Keeping the Lawn Clean

Keeping the lawn clean is crucial to maintain its health and beauty. A clean lawn is free of debris, which reduces the risk of pests and diseases. Here are a few tips to help you keep your lawn clean:

  • Regular Debris Removal: Every week, make sure to remove any debris such as leaves, twigs, and branches from the lawn. Fallen leaves can block the sunlight and damage the grass underneath, leading to yellowing.
  • Proper Disposal: Be sure to dispose of the collected debris properly to avoid creating a haven for pests or pathogens. Make sure they are either composted or put in yard waste bags and kept away from your lawn.
  • Remove Overgrown Weeds: Weeds are not only unsightly but can also compete with your grass for nutrients and water. Pull them out before they have a chance to spread too much.
  • Don’t Let Pet Waste Accumulate: Dog and cat feces can be detrimental to the lawn’s health and even pose health risks to people. Make sure to remove them promptly and dispose of them accordingly.

By keeping your lawn clean, you are ensuring that your grass is not only healthy but also has room to grow and thrive. This makes it less likely to succumb to yellowing and other ailments, providing you with a beautiful and healthy lawn all year round.

Reseeding and Over-Seeding

are two effective ways to restore your law n’s health and lush green color. Reseeding is the process of planting grass seeds in areas of your lawn that have turned brown or yellow. It is a quick way to achieve a greener lawn, but it may be challenging to determine the timing for reseeding, as it usually depends on the type of grass you have.

Overseeding, on the other hand, is the process of spreading grass seed on the existing lawn, which helps fill in thin spots and enhances the lawn’s overall appearance. Keep in mind that over-seeding usually requires consistent watering and fertilization to enhance the grass’s growth and avoid further discoloration.

Before starting either reseeding or over-seeding, it is essential to prepare the soil adequately. You should first remove dead grass and debris, till the soil, and loosen the top layer of soil to facilitate root growth. You can also aerate the soil to improve the movement of essential nutrients, such as water, oxygen, and minerals, to the grassroots enabling them to grow and develop, leading to a healthy lawn.

After preparing the soil, it is essential to select the suitable type of grass seed for your lawn depending on the climate and the sun exposure of your area. You should choose a high-quality grass seed brand and select a variety that is suitable for your lawn’s specific needs.

Also, ensure that the soil is well-moistened before and after planting the seeds to encourage germination. Reseeding and over-seeding are effective solutions for a discolored lawn, but they should be accompanied by proper care and maintenance such as regular watering, fertilizing, and mowing to enable the growth and development of healthy grass. By reseeding or over-seeding your lawn, you can bring back its lush green color and the overall attractiveness of your yard.

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In conclusion, yellowing is a sign that your lawn needs attention. As this complete guide on grass discoloration illustrates, several factors contribute to yellowing, including water deficiency, nutritional deficiencies, excessive fertilization, diseases, pests, weather conditions, and soil pH levels.

Prevention is key, and taking measures like regular watering, proper mowing, and soil testing can help prevent grass discoloration. In cases of yellowing, treatment measures such as pest control, dethatching, and pH adjustment can help restore the lawn’s health. However, understanding the root cause of the yellowing is essential in taking the appropriate action. Finally, grass maintenance is crucial in keeping your green lawn vibrant and healthy.

Regular maintenance schedules, proper mowing techniques, keeping the lawn clean, and necessary reseeding and over-seeding can go a long way in keeping your lawn looking lively and lush. With this guide, you can easily diagnose the issues affecting your lawn and take the necessary steps to ensure a green and healthy lawn year-round.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the appropriate water schedule for a healthy lawn?

The frequency of watering your lawn will depend on the climate, grass type, and soil. It is essential to provide adequate water according to the needs of your lawn but avoid overwatering, as this can lead to disease and fungus. A general rule of thumb is to water your lawn one inch per week, preferably in the morning or later in the day when evaporation is lower.

2. How often should I mow my lawn?

The frequency of mowing your lawn will depend on the grass type, the season, and the cutting height. Generally, you should mow when the grass reaches a height of one-third higher than the desired height. This technique encourages root growth and helps the grass to be more resilient. However, avoid cutting the grass too short, as this can lead to stress and yellowing.

3. What is the best fertilizer for my lawn?

The best fertilizer for your lawn will depend on the grass type and soil. It is essential to conduct a soil test to determine the nutrients that your lawn needs. The most common types of fertilizers include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, and they come in different ratios. A professional landscaper can help you determine the right fertilizer for your lawn.

4. How can I prevent insects and diseases from damaging my lawn?

Regular maintenance practices can help prevent insects and diseases from damaging your lawn. These practices include proper mowing, watering, and fertilizing, as well as insecticide and fungicide applications when necessary. Professional lawn care services can also provide preventative measures to keep your lawn healthy.

5. What are the signs of soil pH imbalance?

The signs of soil pH imbalance include yellowing grass, stunted growth, and difficulty absorbing essential nutrients. It is best to conduct a soil test regularly to ensure that your lawn is receiving the necessary nutrients and to make necessary adjustments when needed.

6. How can I control the thatch in my lawn?

Thatch is the accumulation of dead grass and other debris that settles on the surface of the soil. You can minimize thatch buildup by mowing regularly and aerating your lawn. A lawn care professional can also provide services that help to dethatch your lawn.

7. How can I reduce soil compaction in my lawn?

Soil compaction can be reduced by regularly aerating your lawn. Aeration involves perforating the soil with small holes to allow water, air, and nutrients to penetrate the root zone and promote root growth.

8. Can use too much fertilizer cause yellowing grass?

Yes, using excessive fertilizer can cause toxicity and yellowing of the grass blades. It is essential to follow the instructions on the fertilizer package and avoid over-fertilization.

9. Should I rake my leaves in the fall?

Yes, it is best to rake the leaves in the fall as they can smother the grass and lead to disease and thatch buildup. Alternatively, you can use a leaf blower, mulch the leaves, or hire a professional service to remove the leaves from your lawn.

10. How can I fix patches in my lawn?

You can fix patches in your lawn by reseeding or by over-seeding with grass seed that matches your lawn’s existing grass type. Be sure to provide the necessary water and nutrients to promote seed germination and growth.


Bryan Mckenzie
Hi there — my name is Bryan McKenzie. Before I’d got into gardening, I worked as a landscape designer at landscape design and consultation company in Jacksonville. I enjoy sharing the vast gardening experience I’ve accumulated throughout the years with like-minded green thumbs. Read more about me and my wife.
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